Patriots roll in postseason opener


By Ben Stroup - bstroup@aimmediamidwest.com



A swarm of Liberty players sack Jerome’s Hayden Schell in the first quarter of Friday’s Division I playoff game in Powell.


D. Anthony Botkin | The Gazette

Talk about a fast start.

Mitchell Okuley tossed four first-half touchdowns, three in the second quarter alone, as the Olentangy Liberty football team parlayed a 28-0 halftime lead into a lopsided 35-0 win over Dublin Jerome in the first round of the OHSAA Division I playoffs Friday night in Powell.

“It was a good way to start the playoffs,” Patriots coach Steve Hale said. “We got off to a good start, made some plays on offense and got some stops on defense. We have some things to tighten up, but I’m really happy with the way we played … this team has been improving all year long.”

The Patriots (9-2) punted on their first possession of the game — Okuley was sacked by the Celtics’ (7-4) Robert Cope to end what started as a promising drive — but were next to impossible to stop the rest of the opening half.

After the defense forced a three and out, Liberty started its second drive at the Jerome 30 … and the Patriots turned the field position into points in a hurry. A pair of Matt Webb runs pushed the ball into the red zone, Johnny Wiseman scampered inside the 10 and Okuley hit receiver Mitchell Kershner for a 10-yard scoring strike to make it a 7-0 game with 4:48 left in the first quarter.

The Patriots were just getting warmed up.

Okuley connected with Jacob Sincek on a fourth-and-two play from the Jerome 48, Webb powered through the Celtic defense for another first down and, with four receivers lined up to the right side, Okuley hit Wiseman for a 30-yard touchdown with 6:55 left in the second quarter. Wiseman collected the quick pass and picked up a few good blocks from the other three receivers to make it a 14-0 game.

“He’s been making a ton of plays for us,” Hale said of Wiseman. “Teams are starting to realize we want to get him the ball and we’re having to find some creative ways to do that.”

The defense got in on the act after that. Troy Oehler broke up a pass on fourth-and-four to set up the third TD and Kershner intercepted Jerome quarterback Hayden Schell and returned it to the Jerome 23 to set up the fourth.

A 74-yard catch and run by Wiseman — a play similar to his first score — made it 21-0 with 2:43 left in the second and a three-yard strike to Ben Roderick with 1:15 left in the half accounted for the 28-0 edge at the break.

Liberty outgained Jerome 237-55 in the first half and, well, never looked back.

The Celtics fumbled the opening kickoff of the third quarter and Dylan Stevens picked it up to set the Patriots up at the 28.

Webb rumbled inside the 10 on a first-down play, Okuley’s keeper pushed the ball to the six and Webb powered into the end zone on the next play to balloon the lead to 35-0, forcing a running clock with 9:24 left in the third.

Jerome, which managed just four first downs the entire first half, picked up two on its first possession of the second half, both by Cope, but a failed fourth-down conversion just inside Liberty territory ended the series and whatever drama the game still had.

Okuley completed 12 of his 15 passes for 163 yards and the four touchdowns.

Schell, meanwhile, was 10-for-14 for 58 yards and an interception.

Webb led all rushers with 93 yards to go with his TD While Wiseman’s two touchdown grabs, his only two catches of the game, covered 104 yards to make him the game’s leading receiver.

With the win, Liberty will take on Gahanna Lincoln at a site to be determined next Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

A swarm of Liberty players sack Jerome’s Hayden Schell in the first quarter of Friday’s Division I playoff game in Powell.
http://www.delgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2017/11/web1_DSC_8873.jpgA swarm of Liberty players sack Jerome’s Hayden Schell in the first quarter of Friday’s Division I playoff game in Powell. D. Anthony Botkin | The Gazette

By Ben Stroup

bstroup@aimmediamidwest.com